A pall of gloom enveloped the nation last weekend when for the fourth time this year another aircraft crashed. This time, the Augusta 109 Nigerian Navy helicopter veered off the Nembe-Okoroba mangrove of Bayelsa State, and claimed some of the nation's leading lights- the governor of Kaduna state, Sir Patrick Yakowa, a former National Security Adviser, Owoye Azazi - their aides Dauda Tsoho and Mohammed Kamal as well as the pilots, Murtala Daba and Adeyemi Sowole.
These were distinguished gentlemen who left their footprints in the sands of time. They had career paths that affected the people directly and the consequences of their departure are being felt across the country.
Buried yesterday, late Governor Yakowa had a distinguished public service career spanning local, state and federal government establishments and got to the peak as a permanent secretary before sojourning into politics. He had been secretary to his state government and deputy governor before becoming the first elected Christian governor of the state. That in itself is symbolic.
Unlike the case of typical Nigerian politicians, Yakowa did not attract too many negative comments while alive. He was not one of those politicians who exploited religious or ethnic sentiments to divide Nigerians for their own selfish gains.
Gen. Andrew Owoye Azazi, former National Security Adviser (NSA) was a decorated officer and prodigious intellectual. He was also brutally frank. Many would remember his indictment of the political class on the nation's security challenges at the twilight of his service in the Goodluck Jonathan's administration.
Trained at the University of Ibadan, he completed the Staff Intelligence and Security Course, School of Service Intelligence, Ashford, Kent, United Kingdom, and Combined Strategic Intelligence Training Programme, Defence Intelligence College, Washington DC, United States and the National War College, Nigeria, where he won the President and Commander-in-Chief's merit award for best all round performance. He indeed left behind his immediate family and a 90-year-old mother!
The multi-layered tragedy also consumed Murtala Daba, the captain in command of the ill-fated chopper. His dexterity and competence was not in doubt as he had flown more than 800 hours before the Saturday mishap. His co-pilot, Adeyemi Sowole had also put over 300 hours flight time. They paid the supreme sacrifice in the service of their fatherland.
As embodiment of hard work, loyalty and valour, both Dauda Tsoho and Mohammed Kamal, aides of the late governor and the ex-NSA lost their lives in active service. They were honest fellows whose piety re-echoes the true Nigerian spirit of never-say-die. The nation has lost so much in these six gentlemen.
Sometimes, we wonder why our best perish in circumstances that are avoidable. We encourage both the Senate and Governors' Forum to unearth the mystery of the helicopter disaster that the naval authorities claimed was in perfect order. Only then would we have paid glowing tribute to these men of honour who died that the bond of friendship and unity in our diversity would have a resounding meaning.